The Follow Up
She felt the heaviness of a boulder right above her legs as she climbed up the last few steps before arriving at his doorstep. He had asked her to come over without explaining why. She had asked to meet at a park. Neutral territory. Four weeks after they had decided their relationship wasn’t worth saving, she wasn’t sure what there was left to say. That’s not true, she had a lot to say. She had written it all down. But she wanted it said on her terms, unlike the last few months where she felt like a floating dust particle in a ray of light.
She had run through every scenario on the way there. “He probably wants to tell me he is already seeing someone else,” she exhaled into the phone to her friend. “Why else would he insist I come over and not just send me an email or a text?” She didn’t want to be caught off guard, not again, not in the way she had been when things first started unraveling, the sound of her world shattering so loud and sharp she had felt momentarily deafened. What she knew now was that their relationship had always floated on a fragile fantasy constructed on hopes of happy endings that had nothing to do with who they really were and how their life was unfolding. She had finally loosened her death grip on the cliff of their relationship and was free falling into the abyss.
The Break Up
It had ended amidst tears - hers wild and unruly like her hair. The tears that foreshadowed the pain ahead but wept the version of herself she had lost over the last few months. Her shell remained now, feeling worthless, unlovable, discarded. That night she packed up everything - the tee-shirts he slept in, his sandals, the weird patchwork alien doll he had bought for her saying “this just reminded me of you”. He had said he would be back for it later, perhaps hoping he would never have to, but she knew she needed her place scrubbed if she was to bear staying in her apartment tonight.
The chocolate cake she had baked for his birthday still sat dense and moist in her refrigerator. She had never baked a cake before. That day, preparing a meal for him from scratch meticulously following recipes in her apron, she imagined herself the women from the movies, the ones who kicked ass out in the world and at home and was equally handy in the kitchen .
But she was none of those things; she felt her flaws were as unmistakable as a hyena’s howl on a still night. If he had known how hard she worked to cover them up - the flaws in herself and in the relationship - he would have questioned if any of it was worth salvaging.
How could she stay in the apartment that night? The ghosts of the relationship lay strewn over her furniture. He had once looked around the apartment and said to her, “I don’t know how we would decorate our apartment together? I think our styles are way too different.” At the time, she felt giddy that he was already thinking ahead to a future where they would be creating a space together. What she knew now was that he was thinking about all the ways they didn’t fit.
A few months ago
They lay spent, watching the sun rise over the ocean beyond the trees, beyond the windows of the teepee where they lay soaking in the morning dampness and each other. They had escaped their lives in San Francisco, her consulting job and his tech job, and were hiding in a corner of Maui. Together. She leaned into his chest, her face riding its wave, its rhythm still peaking from the ecstasy of what they had shared. She felt the morning light gleaming in her eyes along with desire - desire for the moment they shared, for him, for their future together. Her breath caught in her throat, her body too small for its fullness, its completeness. She was at home, laying against him, miles from home, hiding together from reality.
A month before the breakup
She felt the Nicaraguan sun beat down her exposed back as she ran further away from the house where she had left him. Tears of hurt and embarrassment mingled with the salt of her sweat. “Tell me what you want,” she had beseeched, her legs wrapped around him, looking into his eyes looking for a glimmer of the ache she felt. They hadn’t been intimate in so long, so that even as they were together in another country, exploring together, she felt further from him than from home. What was she doing wrong? What was she missing? Why had she stopped being attractive to him? Why did he no longer look at her the way she throbbed for him? She had asked. He had remained silent. “It shouldn’t be this hard,” he said flatly, “you shouldn't have to ask. Maybe this isn’t working.”
She had never felt more staggeringly alone. She ran, ran as fast as she could to shake the hurt but it felt stuck under her skin. It ran with her, bold, relentless, angered.
The bus hurtled through the Riff mountains, meandering through the rugged and expansive Moroccan countryside. The musical lilts of Arabic swam around them like pebbles in a stream. Despite the complete alien-ness of their situation six thousand miles from home, she felt the world couldn’t be smaller around her. It was just them, shoulder to shoulder. He had just asked her to be in an exclusive relationship. There was no question in her mind that she wanted it. She had been swimming in ideas of what their life could be together, her heart full of hopes for the life they would lead together. It would be just like that moment, together, in unknown lands, racing from adventure to adventure, seeing the world through each others’ eyes.
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